TV Squad Soap Report: Beth Ehlers reporting for duty to All My Children
The latest form of flattery will be on All My Children with the introduction of Beth Ehlers as a new character in Pine Valley, Lieutenant Taylor McBride, a U.S. Army vet who has recently been deployed in Iraq.
Gallery: TV Squad Soap Report - Ehlers/Goldin
The idea, if you haven't guessed yet, comes from the Lifetime primetime success Army Wives, and new AMC head writer Chuck Pratt admits it freely. He told Michael Logan of TV Guide, "The story is certainly influenced by the success of Army Wives. The goal is to present the kind of debate that's going on all over the country in a way that's entertaining and relatable and without taking sides."
Army Wives deals with military families and issues that the soldiers deal with as well as their spouses. In All My Children, the distaff part of McBride's world will be provided by Jake Martin, currently being played by Ricky Paull Goldin. The connection between Ehlers and Goldin will be familiar to soap fans; on Guiding Light, as Harley and Gus, the two actors were a romantic supercouple. They even won a special fan award at the 2005 Daytime Emmys as Irresistible Couple.
On Guiding Light, the Gus/Harley romance was complicated -- like all soap love stories -- but rooted in traditional themes. On AMC, Pratt envisions a more political love story for Taylor and Jake. "Not unlike our current presidential campaign, [theirs] is a clash of ideals, the liberal versus the conservative. Taylor represents the modern warrior who is gung-ho military. For her, it's all about her country, her unit, her mission, not about the politics," he told Logan.
What Taylor and Jake share in common is PSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. He's been scarred from an experience in Darfur, when he was taken hostage by terrorists while working with Doctors Without Borders. Taylor was wounded in Iraq and is scheduled to redeploy.
For Ehlers, who spent her entire daytime career on Guiding Light, this new character is exciting. The political angle, the connection to the military, should appeal to her as well because her favorite storyline on GL involved the Vietnam Veteran's memorial in Washington, D.C. At that time, her character, Harley Davidson Cooper, believed that her father Buzz had died a soldier in the Vietnam. Determined to come to terms with his death after so many years, Harley visited the memorial and discovered his name was not found inscribed there because he was still alive. For a TV Week special celebrating Guiding Light's 70th Anniversary on the air (in 2007), she told me about filming those scenes: "That day was bitterly cold and the tears literally froze on our faces. I remember also trying to understand what it must be like to have an idea about something your whole life and then to have that completely shattered. There was a puzzle piece missing from her life."
Chances are there will many puzzle pieces to Beth's new character, because there's no way Lt. McBride will be sent back into combat any time soon. She's going to be around long enough to annoy and eventually spark with Jake. If Chuck Pratt does his job well, Taylor and Jake may become as irresistible a couple as Harley and Gus were. Guiding Light's loss is All My Children's gain.
Beth's first airdate is July 24.